Attending a UU summer camp or conference helps to solidify a Unitarian Universalist identity. Many lifelong Unitarian Universalists will tell you it was their participation in UU summer camps, conferences, retreats and other “immersion experiences” that solidified their connection to their faith.
According to the book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs by Kate Tweedie Erslev, many lifers found these experiences provided some of their most significant memories. Here they found safe community, a sense of religious identity, spiritual renewal, and supportive peers. These longer immersion experiences allowed them to go deeper, to be more vulnerable, to connect – not just to each other but to their UU faith. There are over 26 UU camps and conference centers that offer 1-week all-inclusive vacations for adults, families, children and teens. I have attended UU conferences both with my family and alone.
Typically, UU conferences have separate programs for adults and children, and also multigenerational activities. In the morning, adults attend a theme talk and a workshop from several choices on anything from drumming or poetry; to “ethics for Unitarian Universalists” while children attend a fun and creative children’s program. Afternoons have free time, more workshops or multigenerational activities. Evenings are filled with music, dances, maybe a talent show where everyone claps wildly for every performance, and games and conversations in front of a fire. There are short inspiring worship services at the start and end of each day (often outside). All activities are optional so you can always read, relax and swim while you enjoy the all-inclusive aspect of the conference. It is wonderful to meet and socialize with UU’s from other congregations.
Listed below are brief descriptions of a few of the UU camps and conferences that have programs this summer. All of these have been attended by people from UUCWC.
Star Island: Ask any one who has been to Star Island about their experience and a misty far away look gets into their eyes. The entire vehicle-free island off the coast of Portsmouth, NH is devoted to a UU conference center in a turn-of-the-century grand hotel. I have been attending Star “Religious Education Week” for 12 years. See www.starisland.org or ask me for more information. If you are in the area this summer, you can make a day trip to the island or stay overnight.
Ferry Beach: Ferry Beach is located on the beach in southern Maine on Saco Bay. It offers a variety of one-week conferences. Ferry Beach has a campground attached to it, which allows for a cheaper housing option. I have been here and really enjoyed it. More information is available at: www.ferrybeach.org.
UUMAC: Unitarian Universalist Mid-Atlantic Community takes place for one week each year at DeSales University, Center Valley, PA. This year it is from July 12-18th. For more information see www.uumac.org.
Children’s overnight summer camps:
- Murray Grove: Overnight camp for kids for rising 4th-7th grade near the Jersey shore. This year from Aug 2nd-6th. There are UUCWC kids who love it and attend annually. This is a great place for a first-time overnight camp experience. The camp is small, close by and only 5 nights. https://murraygrove.org/event/camping-in-the-grove-2020/
- Unirondack:. Several kids from UUCWC have loved this camp. Weeks are for specific age groups. Spots fill up quickly. http://www.unirondack.org/
- Rowe Camp: Its philosophy is to balance individual freedom and responsibility to the community in a fun, relaxed, creative, energetic environment. http://rowecenter.org/wp/youth-programs-overview
- Fahs Camp: Details are not available yet. It is in the NY area, is a larger camp than Murray Grove and is for 1 week in August. https://www.liacuu.org/fahs.html
A complete list of UU camps is at http://www.uucamps.org/. The possibilities are endless. Did you know there is a UU family camp in south Florida during Christmas week called SWIM (see http://www.swimuu.org).
Bringing an entire family on an all-inclusive week vacation can be beyond a family’s budget. There are ways to keep costs down by camping, by working part of the day (e.g. teaching RE) and by applying for scholarships. They often have special discounts for first time attendees. See me for ideas about how to make a UU camp a possibility for your family.
Another great opportunity to grow your Unitarian Universalist identity is to attend General Assembly (“GA”) in June. GA is our denominational annual meeting and so much more. It is attended by thousands of UU’s. This year it’s in Providence, RI. For more information, read this article from last month’s Crosscurrents.
Director of Lifespan Religious Education